Goodbye, Martha! We’ll Be Back in Spring

Sometimes coincidence is eerie. Monday, having realized that I have digital cameras (duh) I took one out the Refuge and got some good photos of Sandhill cranes specifically to share them on my blog with all the patient people who’ve heard — read — one crane rhapsody after another. Yesterday Teddy and I went out and found that the cranes had finally flown south to their winter home at Bosque Apache near Roswell, New Mexico.

I was struck at the coincidence. Maybe Monday was the last day of the cranes at the Refuge. Maybe the squall that passed through with some violence Tuesday night sent them packing. Whatever their “radar” that tells them it’s time to get out of here, they were gone.

The Refuge was silent. Geese and ducks — who are still here because there is still open water — don’t spend the day in conversation. It seems they only speak up when they have something to say. In a little while, the Refuge will be silent with winter. I have never walked out there in winter, so I’m looking forward to it. If we get snow, I could ski on the road. I don’t know what birdlife I will find — if any. I’m expecting to see the tracks of deer and elk. I’m also expecting some wild and bitter winds — the first tentative assault of that yesterday sent me out in a down anorak.

It’s a Pulcritudinous Day in the Neighborhood

Back in the day, when we were approaching high school graduation, we began prepping for the college boards. College back then wasn’t community college; it was a four year liberal arts institution that’s still around, I think. ANYhoo, there were a couple of exams we had to take in order to apply to institutions of higher learning and these were the ACT and the SAT. There was a little debate about whether we needed to take BOTH tests but since some schools wanted one and other schools wanted the other, many of us took both. Both exams are still around.

I didn’t expect to pass the math sections of either exam. I don’t believe I did. That was about the time “pocket” calculators came out and they were incredibly expensive and not allowed in the exams, anyway. I didn’t go to school with any kind of math tool except my strange brain that moves numbers around and recognizes 3 as B and 5 as S and l as 1 etc. and my two hands. My teachers coached me around my fear and frustration, “It will be fine, Martha. You’ll score very high on the verbal sections, and you have all your extra-curricular activity to make you an attractive candidate.”

It’s true. I did a lot of extra-curricular stuff in high school. I don’t even remember all of it at this point, but I got a full ride to a woman’s college in Denver. That was my mother’s dream. I couldn’t really go very far away from home because my dad was so ill and the family so friable.

We were intensely prepped with vocabulary, but anyone with the predilection I had for Victorian fiction was ahead of that game. People back in the 19th century seem to have truly loved words. And then, those with a good education usually studied Latin, Greek and a modern language bringing even MORE words into their world. At that moment in my education I believed that truly educated people had a classical education and I meant to get one. Learning vocabulary for the college boards was a breeze for me. Pugnacious, bellicose, belligerent, quarrelsome. Bring it on.

I suppose I was pretty obnoxious because the best friend of my boyfriend said, “You kiss HER? Isn’t that like kissing a book?”

Fighting words.

Are People Just Stupid?

Every day The Washington Post sends me Coronavirus updates. Today the big news is that people traveled and gathered for Thanksgiving and more people than ever are now ill and hospitalized (and dying). Then I read this:

Being told to stay away from family and friends at the holidays is difficult, especially during an extended public health crisis, and there is plenty of evidence that the pandemic is exacting a severe psychological toll. Depression and anxiety are up, alongside drug use and alcohol consumption. Suicidal thoughts are increasing, particularly in young adults. Here are some ways experts say we can be there for loved ones, even if we can’t be there. And a psychologist’s advice about how we can keep our own sadness from evolving into depression

I lost my dad to multiple sclerosis when I was 20. He was only 45. I miss him every day of my life and wonder all the time what it would have been like to have known him well into my adult years. My hero is a woman, an artist, who is exactly my dad’s age, 95. I love our conversations and her perspective on things. She’s awesome. I’m grateful to know her and love her dearly. She’s been virtually isolated at home since this started, but I have yet to hear her whine about it. We all wish we could be with our friends and family, but …

To me it is absolutely totally OBVIOUS that the best way for people to “be there for their loved ones” is to fucking BE THERE meaning HERE on the planet and ALIVE for them.

I’m willing to admit that my need to “gather” is not as strong as many peoples’. I know that. But even IF I had a need to gather, I don’t see myself being “sad” because I can’t. I can SEE that there are legitimate, concrete obstacles in existence right now as far as “gathering” is concerned. My emotion? I don’t have one relative to this unless resignation is an emotion. Or bewilderment that people don’t seem to get that the risk to gathering and traveling is NEVER being able to gather AGAIN. That is pretty clear to me. I have a lot of friends and people I love, but none of them I love more than myself (first of all) and second, I love them too much to want to risk their becoming ill and dying or being permanently damaged.

What’s with people? I’m sad there is a deadly virus. I’m not sad that it keeps me from “gathering.” I know “gathering” will happen and, in the meantime? Far, far far better for me and my friends for me to wander the wildlife refuge alone with my dogs and cranes than to hang out with my friends. And, when it comes to that, when I CAN hang out with my friends (locally), we do it in such a way that the risk is minimized as much as possible. I love them all the more because they respect themselves and me.

Lamont and Dude Contemplate Romantic Love

“What’s that, Dude?”

“Isn’t this lovely?”


“Uh-oh what?”

“Yeah, they’re cute but seriously, Dude. After a few craft beers, a few afternoons grilling steaks or veggie-burgers here on the patio, it always falls apart for you. Can’t you understand the essential problem for us in the human mating game this go-around is WE KNOW TOO MUCH?”

“Who’s ‘mating’? I just found this on the beach. What’s it made of?”

“Nacre. Better known as mother-of-pearl. Oh, thank god. I thought, you know, you were back in that bit of buying shiny things for some recently discovered hot babe who can’t even surf.”

“No, Lamont. C-O-V-I-D, remember? Too risky. Besides, I like kissing.”


“You never fell in love, Lamont?”

“Dude, human love is a very complicated subject, a multi-dimensional crapshoot all built around the prime directive, the continuation of the species. I’ve always been a rather straight-forward kind of being, whatever the iteration. All this frou-frou to make something out of, well…”

“It’s not nothing, Lamont.”

“BEARS have it figured out. Wander around in the woods smelling her scent, her pee, where she sleeps, always keeping your distance, because, well, you know bears. Then, when you realize from smelling her urine that she’s into you, you approach her and hang out together for several days doing your best to further the existence of the species. Then, take off. She has work to do.”

“Yeah, but come spring she had to worry you’d kill the cubs.”

“Love hurts, Dude. You know that.”


Lamont and Dude are characters I came up with a few years ago. They have the uncanny ability to remember many of their past incarnations which gives them a unique perspective on life, the universe and everything.

“Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death!!!”*

I’ve been looking longingly at the iPhone 12pro Max or whatever it’s called. It’s $1000+. And why? The camera… I mean here I am going out to the big wide animal world and taking photos with my phone of animals no one can see in the photos. Clearly I need a new phone!!!


I have two very nice digital cameras, one of which fits in a pocket. Because of this you will finally get to see what I see.

All in all a pretty good day. I saved myself a thousand bucks and had nice walk with my dog. Along with the waterbirds, we saw the Harris hawk and yes; the eagles are back. A golden eagle took flight from a refuge sign just as I turned a corner leaving the refuge. I watched as she flew and dived and hunted for about a mile as I drove slowly on the dirt road with my window down. 🙂

*Title of a Dead Kennedys album.

Pondering Cranes and the Animal/Human Relationship

The Sandhill cranes are still here. It’s amazing and wonderful. Teddy and I headed out yesterday and, for Teddy, the biggest excitement (except going with me) was flushing two ducks out of a ditch. He didn’t mean to, and I didn’t mean to, but those guys startle easily.

When we were at our turnaround point, the cranes, thousands of them, suddenly took to the air, calling loudly to each other and the world below. It was a spectacular show, but what interested me most was seeing whatever had set them in motion. I did, though not close enough to identify it exactly. A large hawk or eagle was flying low and fast away from the pond, having given up on what he must have thought would be an easy meal.

After watching five hours of nature documentaries (BTW this is NOT a good strategy for relaxation; stick to film versions of Jane Austen novels), I started thinking about the Romantic poets and the so-called “Romantic Era.” Is that where our attitude toward nature changed? There are writers who argue that it is, that until the early 19th century humans regarded the whole big mess of kill-or-be-killed reality as an adversary. I can’t accept that kind of blanket perspective about anything, but it’s probably true that before there were tunnels through mountains, mountains were less appealing, more obstacle than wonder.

The argument kind of hinges on how many early cultures ultimately began raising food on farms rather than gathering random seeds and chasing the woolly mammoth. Thinking about that, I began to see a small domestic farm as a refrigerator. “Grog, honey? Next time you go out, maybe you could bring back a live prairie rooster and hen? You were saying that there are hardly any prairie hens out there any more! I think we could just build a little enclosure and feed them and have the hens we want and their eggs, too!”

WHAT??? Are you impugning my hunting skills?”

“No no nothing like that, but you said it was getting harder and harder to find them.”

I’m sure it happened EXACTLY like that. Word for word.

In any case, no one has domesticated the Sandhill crane. They are hunted in various parts of the United States, but apparently are not easy prey. Ask any eagle.

“Though not quite as prehistoric as dinosaurs, sandhill cranes are thought to be the oldest living species on Earth, with fossilized specimens dating to 2.5 million years ago. Over those roughly 250,000 generations, the birds have gotten pretty wary. That’s why successful crane hunters have big spreads of hyperrealistic decoys, spend more time patterning birds than they do actually hunting them, and take care not to overhunt specific areas.Outdoor Life “Stealth and Decoy Tips”

Thinking about this led me to think about how many early people regarded their prey animals as gods. The plains’ Indians believed that a buffalo they were able to kill was giving itself to them.

That makes me think that we have always seen the beauty in the wild creatures around us, maybe even mores in the days when we lived together with them. And Sandhill cranes are VERY wary, though, on my last couple of forays out into their world, they have flown directly over me as if they finally got the message that I’m not going to kill them. I believe they are every bit as observant of me — more even — as I am of them.

Me, Myself and I

A long, long, long time ago when I wore anklets and saddle shoes, and my cousins and I were children, my uncle Hank said to one of us — me? my brother? my cousin David? my cousin Greg? “Don’t be a snitch.”


“What’s a ‘snitch’?”

“Tattle-tale, honey. Who’s a snitch?”

“I don’t know.”

Words. Snitch is a verbed noun, too, or a nouned verb. I don’t know which. And nobody’s telling. (ha ha)

Hanging with the kids down the or up the alley I’m getting a sense of how we accumulate words. Though it’s almost unfathomable to me at this point that once I didn’t know ALL the words, I didn’t. Hanging with the kids, I’ve seen what was actually happening in elementary school and it wasn’t what I thought it was.

In a way, none of it — education, relationships, experience — has been what I thought it was. A few days ago I read a post on one of my favorite blogs Don’t Hold Your Breath. The post is titled “The Limits of Us.” The author brings up the question of identity. It just happened that last night an article on new research into identity popped up on my Apple News app. “Brain Scans Confirm There’s a Part of You that Remains ‘You’ Throughout Your Life” . The article links to the research paper on which the article is based.

The essence is that part of who we are is there from the very beginning and it is one of the factors that allows us to recognize ourselves through time. The point of the discovery is the identification of a part of our brain that has always known who we are. As far as I understand this article (the scholarly paper is actually clearer) the aspect of identity the research looks at is our faces, knowing our face (self) through time.

That doesn’t interest me much, honestly. That image is not my “self.” But my “self,” as I think of self has been the same since I was very small. At four or five years old I was already drawing pictures of a happy female in a room with a window that showed mountains in the distance. On the floor around that female are sleeping dogs and in front of her is an easel with a painting on it. She holds a brush.

To me identity is more profound than recognizing my face even though it ages into an unrecognizable morass of wrinkles. I think of the way each Dalai Lama is found, by an infant’s ability to recognize the tools that belong to the life and duties of the Dalai Lama.

I remember that, as an adolescent, I was very interested in learning who my friends and lovers were REALLY. I even asked them. “Who are you REALLY?” That must have seemed like a ridiculous question (and I couldn’t have answered it) to most of them. Now I understand that each self — mine, yours, theirs — reveals itself in deeds over time. While it might be a pre-existing essence, reality, from the moment we are born it’s only through the tools of our world that it’s revealed to anyone, even to ourselves. Probably all we can ever know is the reflection in the mirror. That snitch.

World of Weavers

This part of the United States is famous for its Native American weavers though they are no longer touting their wares by setting up their looms beside the road — an image I remember vividly from my childhood when highways were two lanes and there was no fast-food or interstates. It was a very lovely thing to see, a Navajo woman dressed in velvet, sitting on a blanket, her loom in front of her, and baskets of spun wool beside her.

“What’s she doing, Mom?”

“Attracting tourists.”

My mom may have been a little cynical…

The first time I visited this region as an adult was on a “vacation” with the first ex in the early 70s. We stayed in Santa Fe and wandered through all the small towns we could reach in Northern New Mexico, Chimayo, Picuris, Española – all places within reach of car for me now. I loved them. They fascinated me and the music of their names and the mystery of their stories found a permanent place in my heart.

Everything now is fancier. The dust and mystery has naturally been replaced by websites and galleries. Native-American weaving isn’t something you find in the houses of people who live along what is now the I-25 corridor, it’s everywhere.

Here is a couple of videos — the first is Navajo weavers, the second is Tewa weavers. Weaving is a major art form among all these tribes. Their weaving is sometimes purely decorative but usually it contains motifs that have a meaning beyond decoration.

They may or may not use commercial yarn, but historically, the process of weaving a blanket began with taking the wool from the sheep, cleaning it, carding it and spinning it on a hand spindle. Spinning thread (yes) or yarn on a hand spindle? Yeah, I read about it as a kid learning about settling the frontier, but until I saw someone do it I didn’t realize that, historically, people have spent major parts of their lives with a hand spindle and a wad of wool. From that comes a blanket. Seriously. Think about that. Here’s the best video, but you have to watch it on Youtube, so copy and paste the link

Quotidian Update 31.7.b.ix

My Etsy store is doing well this Christmas. People are buying livestock guardian dog Christmas cards like, uh, I dunno. I just break even on them, but it’s a lovely thing when someone who has, and loves, a livestock guardian dog like Bear wants to send pictures of them on the holidays. Life is a strange, strange, strange thing. Back when they were asking me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I NEVER would have said, “I want to make livestock guardian dog Christmas cards for people and sell them from an online store!”

Yesterday most of the messages in my gmail inbox vanished. And, though I didn’t notice it immediately, all of my folders were also emptied into the Trash. Just in case you ever need to know this, there is no way to contact Google directly. I learned this can happen in two ways (not including user error). Sometimes an update will do that. Sometimes someone has hacked your gmail account. I spent some time deleting passwords from websites I haven’t even thought about in more than 10 years and changing other passwords, but I don’t think there was hackage going on.

I recently “upgraded” to Mac OS Big Sur. At this point, I’m pretty sure that was the culprit. ALL of my folders and in box were dumped into the Trash folder. This means my new hobby will be reconstructing my folders, thousands of messages beginning in 2007.

Well, I’d better get down to business and start moving stuff out of my gmail Trash. I hope it doesn’t take 13 years…

Lamont and Dude Discuss the Big Five

“Well, they’ve ‘found out’ that dinosaurs evolved into birds, that Velociraptors were ‘short’ — that’s relative, isn’t it? — and we laid blue eggs.”

“Amusing isn’t it?”

“Yep. Listen to this, ‘…look at Velociraptors, which are among the most misunderstood “terror lizards” yet. A far cry from the large, scaly pack hunters depicted in Jurassic Park, real Velociraptors were solitary stalkers closer to the size of wolves that were covered in feathers. (sic) ‘”Given the chance, this predator likely wouldn’t have hunted humans, either,” Nat Geo’s Amy McKeever writes…’ Good grief. This guy doesn’t even know what he’s saying.”

“What are you reading from, Lamont?”

“Email from National Geographic. The guy’s pondering whether to eat turkey for Thanksgiving. He says he’s already given up eating ungulates now he’s having second thoughts about birds because — here’s the kicker — they’re descended from dinosaurs.”

“Humans. They’re so clueless and, well, clueless. You’d think from all the animal documentaries they have available, they would have figured out the Big Five.”

“Right. Do you remember when I got thrown of Oprah for explaining the Big Five?”

“Yeah. That was crazy. Everyone knows that’s how things work.”

“I was hurt, Dude. I’d even modernized it for the post-Dinosaur world, just for her show.

1) PROCREATE!!!! Fight for that female! If she acts like she doesn’t want to, ignore it. NO means YES.

2) EAT whenever you can. Vegetarians are food. So are dead carnivores.

3) Stuff dies. Sometimes you have to kill it first. If it’s already dead, you caught a break. Eat it.

4) WATCH OUT for eagles, bears, large cats and gulls.

See Dude? That’s the modern part. Good isn’t it?”


“I thought it was very PC. And, finally,

5) Keep yourself alive so you can procreate, kill things and eat them.”

“Almost poetry, Lamont. Hey, Lamont, we never fought over a mate, did we? I don’t recall that we ever did.”

“No. We didn’t have the chance. The meteor hit us probably just a few days before we would have seen some pretty piece of tail — I mean that literally because, you know, feathers — looked each other in the Velociraptor eye and gone for the jugular.”

“That’s probably why we’re friends now, Lamont. That meteor saved us.”

“You’re way too human, Dude.”


Thank you

Happy Thanksgiving readers of my blog, wherever you are. Yesterday I had a conversation with a friend about the year and what we have to be thankful for. She said she was having a hard time with gratitude, but found it — a real triumph in trying times. I thought about my situation and realized that part of me has “enjoyed” the pandemic. No, I don’t like it. I think the government’s handling of it has been inhuman and reprehensible and I’m sad for everyone who’s lost a loved one or a physical ability as a result of Covid-19. It’s horrific, particularly as so much death probably could have been prevented. But, in my tiny life, I’ve enjoyed this year.

There’s something to be said about the clarity of knowing that there is an enemy at the gates and that my job is to survive and to help those around me survive. That imperative is the most basic imperative there is. That right there eliminated a lot of things from my life, some of which I didn’t like in the first place (grocery shopping). Those things I had to “give up” that I do like I realized immediately could be adjusted (social distanced Covid tea parties with my friends, talks in the alley, walks in the golf course with the kids). Otherwise? The pandemic has limited our lives and made us more reliant on those in physical proximity, a life like that before cars, maybe. Anyway, for me it’s been mostly sweet and filled with love.

I’m also very grateful I have a certain income and no need (now) to go to a job. The pandemic threw that beautiful reality in relief early on. I thought of how it would be if I were still in California and teaching. I’d have lost my house by now. I think I’d be living on the street.

I don’t remember ever being more grateful for my life and my world than I am right now, and my life and my world includes all the people who read and comment on my blog. We have also deepened the threads of community over these months. Thank you. ❤


Lamont and Dude are characters I came up with a while ago. They have the unique ability to remember many of their past incarnations, which gives them a unique perspective on life, the universe and everything.